Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Combs v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

December 6, 2017

CARLA D. COMBS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security, Administration, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON COMPLAINT FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW

          DEBRA MCVICKER LYNCH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter was referred to the Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) for a report and recommendation on its appropriate disposition. As addressed below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the District Judge REVERSE AND REMAND the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration that plaintiff Carla D. Combs is not disabled.

         Introduction

         Ms. Combs applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act, alleging she has been disabled since April 26, 2013. Acting for the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration following a hearing in September 2013, an administrative law judge (ALJ) issued a decision on October 30, 2015, finding that Ms. Combs has not been disabled from her alleged onset date through the date of his decision. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision on December 9, 2016, rendering the ALJ's decision for the Commissioner final. Ms. Combs timely filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of the Commissioner's decision.

         Ms. Combs argues that the Commissioner's decision must be reversed and remanded because the ALJ did not evaluate a statement from her employer about her job performance and work-related abilities and limitations. She also maintains that the ALJ's assessment of her subjective complaints was “patently wrong.” The court will first describe the legal framework for analyzing disability claims, the standard of review and the ALJ's findings, and then address Ms. Combs's assertions of error.

         Standard for Proving Disability

         To prove disability, a claimant must show that she is unable to “engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A) (DIB benefits); 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A) (supplemental security income (SSI) benefits).[1] Ms. Combs is disabled if her impairments are of such severity that she is not able to perform the work she previously engaged in and, if based on her age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, she cannot engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(2)(A). The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) has implemented these statutory standards by, in part, prescribing a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.

         Step one asks if the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; if she is, then she is not disabled. Step two asks whether the claimant's impairments, singly or in combination, are severe; if they are not, then she is not disabled. A severe impairment is one that “significantly limits [a claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). The third step is an analysis of whether the claimant's impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or medically equal the criteria of any of the conditions in the Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. The Listing of Impairments includes medical conditions defined by criteria that the SSA has predetermined are disabling, so that if a claimant meets all of the criteria for a listed impairment or presents medical findings equal in severity to the criteria for the most similar listed impairment, then the claimant is presumptively disabled and qualifies for benefits. Sims v. Barnhart, 309 F.3d 424, 428 (7th Cir. 2002).

         If the claimant's impairments do not satisfy a listing, then her residual functional capacity (RFC) is determined for purposes of steps four and five. RFC is a claimant's ability to do work on a regular and continuing basis despite her impairment-related physical and mental limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545. At the fourth step, if the claimant has the RFC to perform her past relevant work, then she is not disabled. The fifth step asks whether there is work in the relevant economy that the claimant can perform, based on her age, work experience, education, and RFC; if so, she is not disabled.

         The individual claiming disability bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987). If the claimant meets that burden, the Commissioner has the burden at step five to show that work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform, given her age, education, work experience, and functional capacity. Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995, 1000 (7th Cir. 2004); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c)(2).

         Standard for Review of the ALJ's Decision

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's (or ALJ's) factual findings is deferential. A court must affirm if no error of law occurred and if the findings are supported by substantial evidence. Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). Substantial evidence means evidence that a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Id. The standard demands more than a scintilla of evidentiary support, but does not demand a preponderance of the evidence. Wood v. Thompson, 246 F.3d 1026, 1029 (7th Cir. 2001).

         The ALJ is required to articulate a minimal, but legitimate, justification for the decision to accept or reject specific evidence of a disability. Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 2004). The ALJ need not address every piece of evidence, but he cannot ignore an entire line of evidence that undermines his conclusions, and he must provide sufficient detail to allow a reviewing court to trace the path of his reasoning. See Arnett v. Astrue, 676 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. 2012). In addition, the ALJ ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.